13 July

GP Specialist Interests Within Primary Care

What can specialist interests add to a practice?

By Ciaran Fletcher

Specialist interests have long been associated with GPs in the UK and around the world. They give GPs the chance to pursue something that they find particularly stimulating that will mix up the day to day a little bit more for them. Specialisms can vary greatly depending on what an individual has an interest in, but also what might be the ‘hot topic’ of today.

Some GPs pursue specialisms based upon what they found rather interesting whilst studying medicine that they wished to pursue to greater lengths once they qualified. For other GPs, they do not discover what they want to specialise in until they have got some experience working in general practice for some months or even years.

What type of specialist interest should a GP pursue?

Generally, GP practices are happy to support the specialist interests of GPs as they are providing a platform for them to practice and hone their ‘craft’, if you will. However, it is important for GPs to want to develop an interest in a specialism that is going to benefit a practice.

For instance, if a GP wanted to pursue a specialist interest in Tropical Medicine whilst working in the middle of Croydon, there wouldn’t really be any great demand for it. Therefore, the practice would struggle to justify providing study leave and funding courses for a GP to pursue such an interest.

However, if a GP wanted to pursue an interest in something like Cardiology, Paediatrics or Menopause, no matter where you are set to work in the UK as a GP, you are more than likely going to be able to put those interests to good use.

Encouraging specialist interests

I have been working with practices recently who very actively encourage GPs with their specialist interests once they are developed, by providing dedicated time on a weekly basis to work on them.

For instance, a surgery I am working with in West Sussex dedicates one clinical session every week to the pursuit of a specialist interest, meaning that a GP who works six sessions in a week will work five routine sessions and one specialist interest session. This is a win-win for the practice as they are able to make their GPs happy by letting them practice their passion, whilst also making patients happy by having more specialised care available to them.

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Benefits for the practice and GPs

Overall, I believe it to be very important that GP practices properly support GPs in their developments and practicing of specialist interests. It is a good thing for the patients of the practice as well as the GPs themselves. This, in turn, leads to improved retention and a better workplace for everyone.

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